Another Indecipherable Note

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(by gershwin_271 for everyone)

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  1. Hello,

    I hope this group doesn't bore of requests regarding translating unknown shorthand.

    I have a note, with a few lines of shorthand, that I've been holding on to for ten years unable to find someone who can decipher it.

    As far as I know, it was written by my grandfather, who was a stenographer, in the 1920's.

    I have been told it is not Gregg shorthand, and someone who said they knew Pitman told me they couldn't read it either. Even if you can't read it, it would be nice to identify they type of shorthand it is written in.

    I found this note inside a small envelope that also contained my grandfather's WWI draft registration card. I am not sure if the items are related.



    Attachment: Unknown Shorthand.jpg

  2. Let's NOT forget that there was Isaac Pitman and Benn Pitman (which was popular here in the USA) and the two systems are very different!

    It looks like Pitman to me but, if it's not Isaac, it could be Benn.

    Or Munsen or Van Saint or Graham or any other those other Pitman variations.


  3. I have done extensive research on the history of Pitman shorthand.

    As ShorthandMarc says, there's little correlation between Isaac's and Benn's system. They're written with the same strokes, but isn't English and Italian, too? But they're not mutually readable.

    Based on my research, I see that some of the strokes are written below the line; Isaac had eliminated those a long time before the 1920s.

    SinceBenn Pitman's system was the most popular in this era, it's most likely his system. Since there's not a single Benn writer alive today, the only way you would be able to get this transcribed is by hiring an expert. One woman who fits this bill is named Dorothy Roberts; you'll have to Google "Dorothy Roberts Pitman Shorthand" to find her.

    Good luck.

  4. Hello,

    Thanks, I will see if Dorothy can help me out.

    Also, the strokes do look pretty similar to an example of Munson I looked up after reading your reply. I will see if I can find a Munson book to reference.

    If anyone else has any clues, please keep in touch.



  5. Gershwin, if your intent is to try to "puzzle" out the prose, I'd forget that endeavor.

    The early Pitman variations, used for reporting purposes, were pretty obtuse, from the viewpoint of a novice. Often, entire prefixes and suffixes were simply omitted. For example, in the word "circumstances", the word might be written "stances". While this might have had the advantage for the reporter, to a novice this device would make the text impossibly obtuse.

    Good luck on your endeavors. I'd be much obliged to hear from you.

  6. Surely there must be some living people who learned Benn Pitman. In 1958 when I was starting Gregg, about November a girl transferred to our high school who could not enter our class as she'd moved from New York State and had learned Pitman the first couple months of the term. I remember that she mentioned position writing: above, on, and below the line as well as stroke thickness. GA's comment that Isaac Pitman had eliminated position writing came as a surprise to me, but then Pitman does little to arouse my enthusiasm even though it was my grandmother's shorthand, learned in the Maine public school system in 1915 and 1916. There must have been a small patch of Benn Pitman writers teaching in public schools in New York state until the late '50's.

  7. Anniversary, I think I might have not expleined it well enough.

    Isaac Pitman had eliminated writing "all the way below the line". That is, words aren't written completely below the line in Isaac's system.

    Students are instructed to write those types of words in the second position, that is, on the line.

  8. GA, I'm sure you've seen the interesting NSRA article about speed contests. Actually it does seem odd that teenage newcomers to verbatim dictation could beat serious professionals who'd honed their craft over a couple of decades. Makes one think that perhaps the newcomers had been trained and bred only for speed contests. Seriously, regardless of the speed contests it seems clear that both the Pitman and the Gregg adherents were throwing their support behind two very fine shorthand systems. Isaac Pitman had to be a genius to have created the concept of Phonography and developed it. JR Gregg, despite the questionable origin and litigation concerning the origin of his method, also was a genius at developing and marketing the system which bears his name. Having been eposed to different runs of The Gregg Writer and much of the literary books published in Gregg during the past year, I'm even more impressed by Dr. Gregg's acumen in promoting his method. Anyway, thanks for your input on position writing – which, truthfully, most surviving Gregg writers do see as a problem in learning Pitman. However, I'm sure it becomes automatic as do the variations in stroke thickness with sufficient practice. I do believe that Gregg is easier to learn to write for a beginner but then I've been using it for so many years, I'm still shocked by some of the questions beginners have on this site. Too bad there are no longer opportunities for formal shorthand classes in public or privatte schools!

  9. Hello,

    Well, I asked Dorothy Roberts if she could help, but unfortunately, she could not read the shorthand either. She does think that it is a variation of Pitman shorthand.

    Hopefully, one day, I will be able to find a way to read the contents of the note.



  10. Please don't think this is boring – I love having a go at reading this old stuff. I have been a Pitman writer since 1953, but I can't decipher this, I am a New Era man.

    I use shorthand every day, writing stuff down from the internet, phone messages, you name it. Well worth the effort of say treating it as one subject for one year, and as a nice hobby.

    Happy New Year Gang!

    Paul in Oz

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